Wednesday, July 24, 2013
M Dumas painting
WHAT IS OUR TRUE FACE, What is our true yoga?
IF YOU ATTEND a modern yoga class in the USA [$10 to $15 per hour up to $65 unless you are a “celeb” and then it is much more, you are likely to feel like a piston in an engine. Instead of stepping onto a treadmill or onto a step climber or doing a bike spin class, you go to yoga. You go there as an aspirant—as a seeker of something physical and perhaps even spiritual—to become more flexible. You have the aerobic working for you. And after a class you, typically, feel something a little different—perhaps spiritual—but, typically, you do not return. If you do return, you expect it to be a workout, not unlike what you have been doing, but honestly, and beautifully, you have expectations of something more, philosophical/spiritual.
Let’s perhaps hold a pose such as “triangle’ for a muscle-burn trying to get your hand down to the mat while maintaining the straightened forward leg, and then it’s back to “vinyasa,” which translates into a quick “plank” (urdva chatruangdandasana) or “chaturanga” in “mass yoga,” pushing down (which is quite different from chaturangdandasana), [“crocodile,” but not really, and then upward, pushing up into “sphinx” or “up dog,” followed by flow into “down dog,” [“where we all meet”] and perhaps another round of “tri” [Utthita Trikonasana, of course, on the opposite side], followed by “taking a vinyasa,” [We were just there, but we are going back again and again] and then moving into another pose such as “Warrior Two,” followed perhaps by “Reverse Warrior” [unless you are an animal or expected to be, into “”Warrior Three,” and [guess what] vinyasa.
Last Sunday, at a “yoga in the park” AND there, two weeks B4 at another “yoga in the park:” The above vinyasa, because this is what all yoga teachers are taught. All sorts of funky poses were thrown in, such as “crow, because it is awesome.” But ninety percent of the participants didn’t have a clue what “crow” was or how to do it, because yoga is now a mass yoga. Forget “crow,” and nearly everyone fell behind in their basic “vinyasa,” so that they ended up feeling like they each pose they were doing was an “ass-anana.” I could read it in their faces. Those who did keep up with the “flow” as I could do, were the exception. This Sunday, it was Power yoga; two week before, astanga-rooted, with it wondrous world-championship vinyasa flow, as if this is the epitome of yoga. So many, who were truly drawn to yoga, and entered this mass yoga, left, I am sure, both this Sunday and those on the latter Sunday, feeling “yoga is not for me.”
We might espouse, as the two facilitators did, that yoga is for everyone. And that is so true. That it is beautiful, And the admonition to be smiling all the while is, again, true. And yet, it is nearly impossible, given the orientation of, really, the MAJORITY of yoga instructors who may have limited training but just be good at facilitating a class and, really (from my experience) the “certified” [which is really to say registered with an organization] by virtue of spending 200—500 hours at perhaps $2600 per 200 hours. From my experience, the most “trained” facilitators who would be likely licensed in the United States as yoga teachers are more like to injure more people than the less “certed.”
I would argue that what is called yoga in the world in which I inhabit is not really yoga in the first place. There is no opportunity to listen to the body, to open, to free the body rather than push, Push, PUSH to control the body. Go to Vanda Scaravelli.
When I go to “yoga in the park” or a less costly “community yoga” [yes, because I am cheap], I expect to encounter the above dynamics of which I am critical, but I have not been once disappointed in finding the potential of injury. Perhaps because I am attending the class, there is a drive by the instructor to “up the anty,” bu I don’ think so. I think this is really what they do.
And so, I would encourage people interested in yoga everywhere in the world to anticipate the above.
I would encourage you to not be discouraged, to do your own practice, to go to a class and to really be intuitive, and not do all that facilitator demands.
Recently I went to a class where headstands were a part of the sequence. I saw people who were overweight as well as thin people. The expectation from the head of the school was that anyone could do this across time, and that one might struggle tonight, but participants were encouraged to give it a try. There were, as is often the case, a good number of students. It might be the headstand in this class or the “wheel” pose in another, but the science of yoga suggests that even if you can do the headstand, and then do it for four years, suddenly, someday, you might have an experience of excruciating pain and never be able to do it again. And an overweight person doing a wheel and perhaps being held up by an underweight person is something any idiot would be afraid to subject participant to, but not a “certed” teacher it seems. And if you were to get “frisky,” and bend your neck a little more than usual (because you felt “really loose,” [especially in Bikram (hot) yoga, you might provoke a stroke because you compressed the vessels in your neck vertebrae. So, at that point, congrats for attaining “uber-flex” at the cost of altering your life forever forward.
As I moved deeper into yoga, it was astonishing to me to hear of all of the injuries caused by yoga, which had seemed to be to be something akin to zazen, “sitting, at rest.”
Congrats for “pushing the envelope” of Mod/mass yoga.
Today, 7/24/2013, on a bike trail, not yoga but that same workout/fitness orientation, a young man flipped suddenly forward, cracked his helmet, passed out, had blood on his face, a torn jersey, blood on his leg, was “goofy,” but said that he had done this before, and had expected the second concussion that he has had to fee worse. Push that heat up there. Get those towels. Enjoy the rush. Yes, whip through those moves fast “to get fit” or to lose weight. Bogus. But someday, look up the actual aerobic impact and see that it equals a mild step on a treadmill. Go yoginis, absorb all of the yoga B. S. you’ve been taught. I know it’s likely the only yoga that you have seen, or even all that your facilitators have really seen for that matter. Keep working with fervor. Bring that body of yours under control. It is what fitness is all about in 2013. But fitness is so passé. When you first get it, it will be about ‘wellness.” But perhaps when your teachers get it—if they ever do—it will be about thriving. I don’t see them really ever slow down, so take that, perhaps, as a strong clue. If they are “power yoga” people or “Astanga, “ perhaps question it a little. And then question all of your own words that lead you to “yoga”—all of the words that you use in yoga, such as “flexibility,” and find that they might just disappear and be replaced by real, real words that mean something.
In the future, perhaps I will offer a restorative-yin video and a soft power yoga video to show another yoga directive.